A couple of people have mentioned that they are finding it challenging to navigate FTDNA's Family Finder. I thought I'd start a thread where we can share experiences and tips for using FTDNA, Gedmatch, 23andMe and DNAGedcom to supplement our Ancestry DNA matching.
I've been using FTDNA for a couple of years and agree that the interface can be a little confusing. When you first log on you get a home page with some icons and drop down menus. I'll confine my comments here to using Family Finder.
There is a "Learn More" item on the menu that gives the basics of the various links. It's worth perusing this before you start.
Usually you will want to start with your Matches. When you click it you will get a list of matches in order of the estimated relationship that FTDNA has computed. Their matching algorithm is different from Ancestry's. It requires *both* a largest segment of at least 7cM *and* a total shared cM of at least 20. You can sort your matches on any of the columns by clicking the column heading.
Each match has a profile that you can read by clicking on the name. Some are very complete and useful, others are completely blank. Some also have uploaded a gedcom, indicated by a little family tree icon. If you click it the gedcom will open in a new window. They are quite primitive by Ancestry.com standards but can provide useful leads. Note that the default in the gedcoms is 4 generations, but you can use a drop-down box to increase that to 9. For many of your matches you will also see a set of surnames on the far right. This has either been manually entered or derived from the gedcom. Again, there may be valuable clues in this list.
The Known Relationships column is a little mysterious. This is a category that you assign yourself, based on your evaluation of the match. When you first do that, the category is identified as "pending." When the other person accepts it the entry becomes final. If someone has suggested a relationship for you, there will be a message in your inbox. There is an indicator on the left hand side of your home page to tell you if you have a message.
At the top of your match list there is a drop down menu that gives various options for displaying your matches. You can display them in terms of the closeness of the relationship, common surnames, new since a specified date, or in common with/not in common with another person on your list.
**Important secret! You can only use the in common with/not in common with filter with matches whom you have assigned a Known Relationship. It doesn't have to be accepted, but you have to assign it or that comparison filter won't work!
There are other options under the main Family Finder menu. If you have done Y or mtDNA tests at FTDNA you can use Advanced Matching to find people who match you on a combination of tests. You can list your Known Relationships, download your raw data of go to Population Finder, FTDNA's ethnicity analysis.
The most important of these items is Chromosome Browser. This is where you do the comparison of your matching segments. You will see a graphic display of your genome and below it an alphabetical list of your matches. When you click on a match the matching segment is displayed in a color on your genome. You can have up to 5 matches in any comparison. In addition to the graphic display you can look at the segments in a table or download the comparison as a .csv file.
Here is my general approach to Family Finder. I look every morning for new matches by using the "New Since" filter. There were a lot at the beginning but now FTDNA usually releases new matches about every two weeks and I generally get 6-10 so it's manageable.
I go down the list and check each profile. There is a little notepad icon that opens a place for you to make notes. If the person has a surname list or gedcom I inspect those and make notes as appropriate.
I then assign a known relationship, usually the one suggested by FTDNA unless I have a specific reason to select another one. When I have reviewed all of the new matches I use the "In Common With" filter to see if they match anyone else of interest. If so, I make a note of it.
When that is done I go to the Chromosome Browser and check all of the new matches for matching segments or ones that I know are associated with specific family lines. I then download the chromosome browser data and set it to the side.
By this time, I usually have a fair idea of which matches are worth following up. If they have provided sufficient information, I email them and make suggestions about how we might connect and ideas about following up. If not, I take a couple of other steps to try to uncover additional information. For example, if they have provided a "most distant ancestor" I look for that person in an Ancestry tree or another online resource to see if there are any clues to the match. I have also been known to Google my match's email address to find their areas of interest. Sometimes I have found and Ancestry id and family tree that way. If I turn up any of these clues I include them in my email.
I then take the downloaded Chromosome Browser data and make notes in the final column about the match's family history, surnames or locations. Then I copy it to my master list of matching chromosome segments to see how it fits with previous matches.
My experience is that about a quarter of the people I contact respond with a helpful dialogue.
That's it for now; other tips and experiences welcome.